My neighbor is a quiet grad student. She has lived in the row house next to us for… gosh knows how long. A couple of years likely. In our row of four homes, us end units have been here a long while (the other end family has been here at least a decade longer than us, and we moved here in 2001), but the middle units have changed more frequently and it’s hard to keep track how long someone has been in residence. Anyway, she seems perfectly lovely but I realized that while I could recognize her whizzing down the main street on her bike and knew where she went to school, I didn’t even know her name.
Or that she had a cat.
Until last week when she came to my door the day before New Year’s Eve desperate. She was to attend a conference and couldn’t find a single kennel or petsitter who was available for her kitty Sylvia. Since I am next door, would it be too much trouble to check in on her? Of course I said yes. She invited me and Emerson over and it was the first time I saw the interior of the home I have been connected to for over a decade. We met Sylvia, she showed me where the food was, the litter box. She handed me a key and dashed off for her plane.
I decided it would be a great learning experience for Emerson, who keeps saying she wants a cat. I thought she and I could go over a few times a day, play with the cat, have Emerson watch me clean the litter box and she could refill the food and water bowls. She does come occasionally, but it’s mainly teaching her how playing with Sylvia is different from a dog (slower, calmer, the cat is in charge you can’t make her chase a string).
Instead I’ve been using this opportunity to work on this here blog. I get up early in the morning, make a cup of coffee, grab my laptop and head next door. My WiFi reaches through the connecting wall. I greet Sylvia, take care of her food and litter box, we have some play/cuddle time and then I open up my laptop and go through my email and do some blog admin stuff for a half hour. At this hour my house is silent, but it’s not free of distractions. I’ll turn on the TV, I’ll do some laundry, I’ll fill the dishwasher and next thing I know I’m running late for work and haven’t yet taken my shower. But here, there’s no distractions except for an adorable brown tabby with the cutest little face who purrs louder than any other cat I’ve met and likes to climb on me and knead my chest while I sit on the couch with the computer in my lap. And while I may be typing this with my head cocked to the side in an attempt to see the screen between ears and whiskers this little bit of time has been great for getting me organized and centered. It has helped me see the distractions and encourages me to create a quiet space free of them for a short moment each morning.
It’s impossible to do everything, but we women sure try our hardest to accomplish it all. We wake up early, go to bed late, and are experts in multitasking to achieve in one day what should take a week. We’re expected to have successful jobs, intelligent and polite children, beautiful homes, beautiful bodies, clean and stylish clothes, be active in our communities and charitable organizations, all while having great sex with our partners and engaging conversation at social affairs. Oh, and then we need to make sure it’s all captured perfectly (or at least in an entertaining manner) on social media. I’m terribly lucky to have a bomb-ass husband who is very involved in Emerson’s education and upbringing and keeps this house beautiful and sound, but I still get frazzled and feel disconnected from overload. Having this very quiet alone start to the morning has really helped ground me and I will continue such a ritual after Sylvia's mommy returns.
We don’t all have a neighbor away on vacation to offer us a place to escape for an hour each morning, but I encourage you to find a way to steal an hour a day for just you. Take a walk in your neighborhood bundled up in a coat and boots while it’s still dark. Tell the family that the bedroom is off limits for one hour every evening and set up camp in the corner of the room with a candle and the comforter folded up into a cushion and meditate. Take an unnecessary closet in your home, remove the doors and turn it into an office nook to give you a dedicated space to write, to sew, to do your thing. Lock yourself in a room and do a yoga video – there’s plenty on YouTube and OnDemand cable that are free. Take up journaling, spending some time each morning with a composition notebook and your mug of tea or coffee. Taking time for yourself renews you, recharges you, and makes you a better employee, creative, caregiver, parent, partner, and friend. You should always put the oxygen mask on yourself before you assist another; help yourself get centered so you can go out into the world and be that badass multitasking superwoman!